Crash Course

ICSE Treasure Chest: A Work of Artifice by Marge Piercy

by AlmondBooks Support on Jan 17, 2023

The ICSE Treasure Chest is a collection of poems curated for students in ICSE Class 9 (2025 Batch). One of the standout poems from the collection is "A Work of Artifice" by Marge Piercy. This thought-provoking poem explores the theme of societal expectations and the pressure to conform. In this article, we will take a closer look at the poem, review a short summary and solve some MCQs for practice.


The bonsai tree
in the attractive pot
could have grown eighty feet tall
on the side of a mountain
till split by lightning.
But a gardener
carefully pruned it.
It is nine inches high.

Every day as he
whittles back the branches
the gardener croons,
It is your nature
to be small and cozy,
domestic and weak;
how lucky, little tree,
to have a pot to grow in.

With living creatures
one must begin very early
to dwarf their growth:
the bound feet,
the crippled brain,
the hair in curlers,
the hands you
love to touch.


The poem "A Work of Artifice" uses a bonsai tree as a way to show how society shapes and limits individuals. The tree is described as something that could have grown tall and strong but has been pruned and shaped to fit into a small pot. This is like how society expects people to fit into certain roles and limits their potential. The poem also talks about how society can limit people's ability to think and act, and how it puts pressure on them to look a certain way. The poem is trying to say that people should be allowed to be themselves and reach their full potential without being held back by society's expectations.

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)

1. What does the bonsai tree symbolize in the poem?
a) Nature's power
b) Human control over nature
c) A symbol of domesticity
d) The beauty of small things

2. What is the purpose of the gardener's actions in the poem?
a) To help the tree reach its full potential
b) To keep the tree small and manageable
c) To control the tree's growth
d) To nurture the tree

3. What is the poem comparing the bonsai tree to?
a) Other plants
b) Human beings
c) Lightning
d) Mountains

4. How does the gardener feel about his actions towards the bonsai tree?
a) He is proud
b) He is indifferent
c) He is regretful
d) He is happy

5. The poem describes the bonsai tree as "domestic and weak." What is the author's intended meaning behind this description?
a) The tree is weak because it is domesticated
b) The tree is domesticated because it is weak
c) The tree is domesticated and weak because of human intervention
d) The tree is weak and domesticated by nature.


  1. b) Human control over nature
  2. b) To keep the tree small and manageable
  3. b) Human beings
  4. d) He is happy
  5. c) The tree is domesticated and weak because of human intervention